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Can Negligent Contractors Shift Blame in South Carolina?

July 10, 2012 — CDJ Staff

Clay Olson looks back to a 1991 Carolina case, Nelson v. Concrete Supply Company. The court concluded in that case that “a plaintiff in South Carolina may recover only if his/her negligence does not exceed that of the defendant’s and amount of plaintiff’s recovery shall be reduced in proportion to amount of his or her negligence; if there is more than one defendant, plaintiff’s negligence shall be compared to combined negligence of all defendants.” In 2005, he reports, as part of tort reform in South Carolina, the legislature further addressed this.

He then suggests a possible outcome of this is that negligent contractors may be able to shift some of the blame (and cost of the settlement) to other defendants who may not be to blame. He offers a scenario in which a contractor is sued for construction defects and a jury has to allocate responsibility for indivisible damage. “A jury need only find the two subcontractors to have each contributed 15% of the indivisible damage.” He adds in another 15% for claims against the architect. Minor blame is given to the manufacturers, and suddenly the negligent contractor is paying less than 50% of the total settlement.

He notes that the previous system in place also had its problems, but notes that this one may not be “fair and equitable.”

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Can Negligent Contractors Shift Blame in South Carolina?